Few people have experienced the providential blessing on their lives that Ezra enjoyed. He found favor in the court of the Persian king and was among the leaders of Israel’s return from captivity. His dedication to the Lord and brokenness over the people’s sin led to one of the great revivals recorded in the Old Testament. Speaking of this faithful servant, the Bible tells us that “the good hand of his God was upon Him” (Ezra 7:9).
Wouldn’t you want that on your tombstone? Wouldn’t you want those who knew you to draw only one conclusion: that God had directed and blessed your life. After all, as believers our aim is to fulfill Christ’s command to “let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder what made Ezra such an effective leader and minister. Scripture gives a clear explanation of why God blessed him.
For Ezra had set in his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10).
You may know that verse—perhaps you even have it memorized. Over the next few days, I invite you to look at it afresh and see how it serves as the foundation for the type of life and ministry that God blesses. The principles in this verse are applicable to every student of Scripture, whether you’re a pastor shepherding your flock, a college student mentoring a friend in your church, or a grandparent teaching your grandchildren. In this brief series, we’re going to consider this passage in light of the vital ministry of parenting.
First, it’s important to point out that Ezra didn’t build his ministry philosophy on examples he saw in the Persians. We have no evidence that he received any formal training in leadership principles, business management, or ministry. Ezra’s was blessed by God because his ministry was built on the Word of God.
If we as parents are to follow his example, we would do well to follow what you could call Ezra’s hermeneutics for parenting. Now, it should be noted at the outset that I am using the term hermeneutics in the broadest sense. I am referring to the entire process by which one takes the truth of God from the pages of Scripture, understands it, applies it to his or her life, and teaches it to others.
To see God’s favor on our ministry as parents, we cannot overlook the importance of rightly understanding, applying, and teaching God’s Word to our children. As John MacArthur says:
If you’re going to faithfully bring up your children in the “training and admonition of the Lord,” you need to teach them the whole counsel of God. All of Scripture is profitable for them (2 Timothy 3:16), so don’t neglect any of its doctrine, reproof, correction, or instruction in righteousness.  John MacArthur, The Fulfilled Family (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 117.
Set Your Heart
Ezra’s ministry of the Word didn’t begin with a study of grammar, syntax, theology, or hermeneutic principles. It began with the intentions of his heart. This is where we too must begin.
Studying the Scripture must never be undertaken lightly. You’re handling the very Word of God—His inspired message to His people. When you approach Scripture, follow Ezra’s example. He “set his heart” on studying God’s Word. A biblical understanding of the “heart” is complex. You could translate the beginning of this verse more colloquially as “Ezra made up his mind.” Still, “heart” refers to even more than that. It refers to one’s mind, character, disposition, and inclination. Ezra made a determined effort; he actively established a specific purpose in his heart. The study of God’s Word captured his focus, desires, motivations—every fiber of his being. That’s commitment, and that’s the type of determination you have to have when you approach the inerrant Word of God. Scripture must enflame your passion, point your focus, drive your intentions. This is especially true if you’re going to model the importance of Scripture before your children.
Put simply, you must not neglect your study. Don’t let it be some passing chore, another check on your daily to-do list. Don’t limit your time in God’s Word to a quick read so you have something to talk about during family devotions, or the guidance you need when you’re disciplining your child. Turn off the phone alerts, close the social-media page, stop the movie or television show streaming in the background, and focus!
Be active and intentional in studying Scripture. Don’t abdicate the responsibility to others. You may be able to escape the sweat and toil by pilfering the work of your favorite author or repackaging a lesson you listened to online, but you won’t escape your accountability to God as a parent. Commit yourself to the work. In his sermon “Hungering for God’s Word,” John MacArthur says:
If you want to go all the way back to the foundation, all the way back to the prime issue, genuine godliness and genuine spirituality is always marked—let me say that again, always marked—by a love for, the delight in, God's truth.
Do you have that kind of love for God’s Word? If we are going to give our children—or anyone else we’re discipling—the Word of God, we must take every necessary step to know it ourselves—and know it deeply. Biblical hermeneutics shouldn’t be viewed as a necessary evil, and God’s truth should not be something you wield occasionally when you’re trying to lay a theological guilt trip on your child. Your heart must be inclined toward the deep study of God’s Word. Your children must see in you a deep, abiding love for biblical truth.
In the days ahead, we’ll look at the process of studying, obeying, and teaching God’s Word. I pray you’ll find it beneficial and fruitful in your home. Before that, take the time to consider your own commitment to God’s Word. Follow Ezra’s example and set your heart to study God’s Word.
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